Jarvis Cocker at Boiler Shop – Shut Up and Play the Rarities

As nearly 1000 people scream, applaud and shout at Jarvis Cocker, the gangly 90s icon, there is a sense of nostalgic comfort. Not just for the audience, but for the former Pulp frontman and new band, Jarv Is. He is back where he belongs, wailing around the stage like a rebellious Catherine wheel, crooning to the tunes of his glory days and pushing forward with new, exciting sounds. Despite its size, Boiler Shop at Newcastle provides a homely atmosphere for the 58-year-old’s latest tour, especially to those lucky enough to scrape and slither their way to the front. We aren’t here for the misshapes, mistakes and misfits. Cocker knows it. He shuts up and plays those bittersweet rarities the audience love to hear from the singers next generation of sound. 

Hear it they shall. Those factoids about Newcastle, “I’ve done my research,” he boasts as he rattles off typically strange on-the-day-today facts, are oddly fitting for this experience. Laika the dog was launched into the stratosphere on this day. Adam Ant was born and 200 years ago, the industrial revolution took its stride in the heart of Newcastle. His link between railroads, space-bound canines and COP26 is a strange one, but we are along for the ride. After a toast to the Antmusic vocalist, Cocker insists that we evolved not from monkeys, but ants. He uses this, like many of the other facts throughout the gig, to jump into his tracks.  

Opening the show with She’s a Lady sets Cocker off on the right momentum. Those sex-crazed announcements of the 1990s heyday crash down the ageism one could expect of the live scene. He ends the encore with My Legendary Girlfriend, a classic track from the depths of Pulp’s back catalogue. “It’s so old I don’t even believe it exists,” he says. He must know the room is full of youthful faces, their first time in the presence of the Common People hero.  

But youthful spirits be damned, Cocker has it all. The glitz and glam of a rose-tinted past come through with Fat ChildrenBig Julie and an incredible rendition of Further Complications, but newer tracks Must I Evolve and Swanky Modes cement Cocker and company as a band and artist on the run from their past. Their dedication to producing music live and seeing where it leads them is a masterstroke for how they conduct their performances. An as-yet-named track (“either Bad Friday or Slow Jam,” Cocker says) is offered early on. Not as a peek behind the curtain, but to experiment. Even the Beyond the Pale work feels and sounds different. It sounds better. Jarv Is have constructed a work that must, truly, be experienced live. The album and the performances are a night and day difference. Aline makes an appearance also, the Christophe (they left the R off because, Cocker says, his family “couldn’t afford to print it in the paper”) classic that Cocker has covered for The French Dispatch. He admits he forgets the words, and for the keen-eared fan, the omission of guilt will be rather obvious. 

Those tracks and the commentary between it all are the perfect partnership. “I feel like I’m giving a lecture,” he says, “…maybe it’s the tie.” All these jabs at Loughborough and Manchester, the back and forth between audience and artist, it is electric. It all lingers as a band with something to prove. An envelope to push. But fans already know that. Those that have seen Cocker reel himself backwards as he catches the high notes of Further Complications or the submerged accosting of evolution on Must I Evolve know that the man can still move. It is preaching to the converted choir of Cocker’s Wednesday night mass. It is a delightful spectacle. An embarrassing one too, for even though Cocker nears his sixties, he can still bend, leap and bow out with more grace and style than the twenty-somethings in the crowd.  

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